Will Aaron Rodgers Pull a Sidney Crosby? His Latest Collarbone Injury Could Propel His Career to New Heights

The headline may seem contradictory, or confusing, but we are seriously asking the question.

By Joe Bielawa [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Could Aaron Rodgers’ latest collarbone injury actually propel his career to new heights? Could this injury be a springboard a magical run for him and the Green Bay Packers?

We believe the answer to that question is yes. And our reasoning took us to the NHL of all places. Bear with us here, but we think there could be some major similarities between Aaron Rodgers’ career and the career of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby.

Have we lost you yet?

OK, so “why?” You’re probably asking. Trust us, we’ll explain.

The two players actually have way more in common than most would think.

Rodgers, like Crosby, had insane success early on in his career. Both men are two-time league MVPs and both are world champions. Rodgers won a Super Bowl in his third year as a starter and Crosby won a Stanley Cup in his fourth year in the NHL.

Not to mention, they entered the NHL and the NFL together in 2005, and both were drafted by marquee franchises.

Rodgers had to follow the legacy of Brett Favre, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and their careers famously (or infamously?) intersected.

Crosby had to follow the legacy of Mario Lemieux, one of the best players in NHL history; their playing careers also intersected.

And now both have had to face multiple potentially season-derailing injuries.

No one would argue that they’re two of the most talented players to ever play their respective sports, yet it’s their hard-work and attention to detail that really has made them into the living legends that they are. Their similarity of having that same insane talent meshed with an insatiable drive to be better is perhaps the rarest of combinations that really makes them so comparable.

Many professional athletes have one trait or the other, very few have both.

When Rodgers secured his first Super Bowl title it seemed inevitable that he would bring the Packers back to the big game numerous times over the coming seasons. He was just stepping into his prime, his team was deep and talented, and he just had an aura about himself — a confidence.

The same can be said for Crosby. Everyone expected that he would bring the Penguins many titles over the next handful of seasons as the prime of his career unfolded.

Despite both playing in relatively small markets they each became the face of their sport and both instantly made everyone around them better. Each player is absolutely hated by rival fanbases, but are immensely respected by their opponents. Interestingly enough, I think they’re both equally disliked in Detroit. But ultimately, they’re both proven winners.

However neither player lived up to the lofty expectations in terms of ultimate team success in the years following their first rings. Both thrived, individually, in the years following their first championships, but they couldn’t quite get their teams back to the promised land.

Crosby spent the next seven years without getting to the Stanley Cup and faced some brutal injuries along the way. We believe that those injuries refocused Crosby and brought upon a sense of urgency to the Penguins’ organization to win now rather than waste a generational talent’s best years.

This is the seventh season since Rodgers’ Super Bowl title and he, like Crosby, is facing a serious injury for the second time in his career (2013 and 2017). Crosby missed major parts of numerous seasons and some lost hope that he’d ever get back to the biggest stage.

In Crosby’s eighth season since his first professional championship it all came together — his injury troubles were behind him and he again looked like one of the best to ever play his sport. Now “Sid the Kid” has won back-to-back Stanley Cups to give him three for his career. He’s fulfilled the nearly-impossible expectations people had for him, but not before being doubted for years.

Some people in the sports media sphere have publicly doubted Rodgers in recent years.

Next year will be Rodgers’ eighth season since his first professional championship. We think it’s all going to come together sooner than later — like it did with Crosby. Rodgers will be 35 next year, which is getting up there for an NFL player, but as Tom Brady has shown, playing into your 40s at an elite-level is definitely doable with the right exercise, diet, and dedication.

Rodgers is taking care of his body and he’s ready for the final third of his career as a starting quarterback in the NFL. We see him playing at an elite-level for at least five more seasons. Remember he sat for his first three seasons in the NFL, meaning he didn’t take hits for three seasons. His legs are more fresh than the average 34 year old NFL quarterback.

That said, he has to win another title to, like Crosby, fulfill the expectations that were set on him following his early career success and Super Bowl championship (a game in-which he was named MVP). He needs a second title to secure his name as a top contender for “GOAT” status. It’s no doubt that Rodgers truly is one of the very best to ever play his position, his stats prove that, but ultimately winning is what matters.

Truly transcendent players are remembered for their championships longer than their statistics. It is for this reason that future generations will know more about Emmitt Smith than Barry Sanders, unfortunately.

We think Rodgers knows this. We think Rodgers cares about his on-field legacy. We think this latest injury will focus him, and his team, and will lead to an all-in, all-out push toward another Super Bowl appearance — sooner than later.

His Packers teams have lost two NFC Championship Games in recent years; he knows how to get his team close to the prize. Now it’s just a matter of finding a way over the hump (like Crosby’s Penguins did following his major injuries).

This newest injury to Rodgers hurts, literally and figuratively, as he was on pace for another AP MVP award. Not to mention he had his team at a 4-1 record at the time of the injury. This team is capable of winning big games and maybe he can make it back at the end of the 2017 season. Or maybe he’ll have to wait until 2018 to take his next shot at glory.

But we think Rodgers, like Crosby, will get back atop the mountain because that is what these elite players do. Would Crosby have had the mental toughness and desire to lead his Penguins to back-to-back titles if he hadn’t suffered through those injury-riddled seasons? We don’t think the determination and urgency would have been as palpable without his injuries.

Our bet is that Rodgers also comes back as hungry and focused as ever. He followed up his first collarbone injury season with an AP MVP season. That should be a terrifying thought for opposing defenses, because he will be back next year at the latest.

One thing we know is that if Rodgers gets hot for a month, and that month happens to be early January through early February, there’s not a defense on earth that can stop him from lifting the Lombardi Trophy again. He’s that good. You mix that talent and his new post-injury drive with organizational urgency and you can get a magical formula.

We aren’t saying we are glad he got injured or that he wasn’t hungry for another championship before he went down injured in Week 6. But we are saying that the version of Rodgers that will come back from this injury will be the best one we’ve seen yet.

Crosby’s legacy is now firmly-planted among the greats and we believe that, like Crosby, Rodgers’ team success won’t be limited to early in his starting career… it’s going to come full-circle.

His MVP-caliber play this year, mixed with the fact that he’s going to come out on-fire when he returns from this injury, will result in another AP MVP award for him. I’d put money down on that award coming as early as 2018.

The Green Bay Packers organization realizes how blessed it has been with Favre and Rodgers (like the Penguins with Lemieux and Crosby). The Packers don’t want to end this incredible 30-year era with “just” two Super Bowl titles. Management will do everything it can to surround Rodgers with talent and depth competent enough for at least one more run at the Super Bowl.

That is the huge factor in-play here with Rodgers’ injury that many people aren’t talking about. Crosby’s injuries and return from those injuries made the Penguins’ front office realize how important it is to win now. They brought in players not caring if they’re sacrificing future success — and it’s paid off.

That is what we expect Packers’ management to do for the next couple seasons. Future draft picks be damned. Future be damned! Lets win right now with Rodgers before he retires. OK, maybe not right now, but as soon as he is back from this injury.

We think Rodgers has a lot of story left to write and we think his latest injury will kick-start the urgency needed to get the Packers back atop the football mountain once more.

If Rodgers wins another Super Bowl and brings a few more memorable moments to the city of Green Bay, his career will have reached its potential. His legacy will be what it has always deserved to be. If it takes a lot of disappointment and a couple injuries to get him on that track, it’ll all be worth it in the end. It certainly was for Sidney Crosby.

Now lets just hope the similarities between the two continue.

 

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